The Chicago Bears were never able to fully replace the value of veteran defensive end Robert Quinn after they elected to trade him at the NFL deadline last year, but a soon-to-be Denver Broncos free agent could finally give them an answer.
ESPN’s Matt Bowen recently put together a list of the top 50 NFL free agents for the 2023 offseason and identified what he considers to be the “best team fits” for each of them. Among them was Broncos defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, who Bowen listed as his 16th-best free agent and believes could “cash in” with the Bears.
Here’s what Bowen wrote about Jones and why Chicago would be an ideal fit;
With edge/interior flexibility, Jones is a high-end mover who shows a quick first step off the ball and the short-area juice to penetrate versus the run game or create pass rush production. In ’22, he registered 6.5 sacks and 28 pressures, and his pass rush win rate when lined up inside (15.9%) ranked sixth among all defenders. He is an ascending player who would immediately upgrade a talent-deficient Bears pass rush, and I expect Jones to cash in with a long-term deal. The Bears allowed almost five yards per rush last season, and their sack total of 20 was last in the NFL.
Jones’ Flexibility Could Play into Bears’ Draft Plans
The Bears could have a number of high-level defensive linemen to consider signing during 2023 free agency. As far as pure interior guys go, Philadelphia’s Javon Hargrave and Washington’s Daron Payne are two of the best in the class; though, it seems likely that each of their respective teams will lock them up before the new league year arrives. Even if one or both of them is available, though, Jones could be Chicago’s ideal choice.
As Bowen noted, Jones is going to appeal to a lot of teams due to his versatility. He is just as capable of lining up in the 3-tech role as he is of lining up at Quinn’s old role on the edge, which would give head coach Matt Eberflus and his staff a lot of freedom with their scheme. The Bears would also not have to worry as much about whether they get Jalen Carter or Will Anderson Jr. — assuming they trade down — in the 2023 NFL draft, as Jones’ positional flexibility would allow them to move him around as needed.
That’s not to say Jones is without his downsides, though. Over his four seasons with the Broncos, he has never missed more than four games in a season, but he has also missed at least one game due to an injury in each of those years, including a hip injury that cost him the final four games of the Broncos’ regular season in 2022. He is also much less accomplished as a pure pass rusher than either Hargrave or Payne — who each recorded double-digit sacks last season.
Bowen Also Likes Mike McGlinchey’s Fit With Chicago
The Bears have a plethora of roster needs heading into the 2023 offseason, so it only makes sense that Bowen found more than one player whose best fit is with Chicago. The other player he linked to Chicago — and listed at No. 7 on his top 50 free agents — was San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey.
“McGlinchey didn’t produce his best tape in pass protection last season, but he has the blocking traits at a premier position to upgrade a Bears offensive front that must do a better job of protecting quarterback Justin Fields,” Bowen wrote. “He wins with angles and the ability to get off the ball, and while McGlinchey’s pass block win rate slipped to 89.6% this season, his run block win rate of 81.2% ranked fifth overall in the NFL.”
One of the few good things the Bears have going for their offensive line right now is the early-career development of All-Rookie left tackle Braxton Jones. If Chicago can find a veteran partner for him at the other tackle spot, it could improve things across the board for the production of their offense and would allow them to focus on the interior spots — a new center, anyone? — during the NFL draft.